When Joe Morgano built his newest showroom in Southampton, N.Y., it was "a clean slate" of fresh drywall and concrete floors begging to be branded. In that one room, the power equipment dealer saw 3,000-sq. ft. of endless possibility.
But the owner of Power Equipment Plus II wasn't the only one imagining how the space could be transformed. Walker Mowers, a manufacturer of zero-turn lawn mowers, helped Morgano convert 300-sq. ft. of that space to showcase the 40-year-old family-owned Walker brand with bold floor graphics, co-branded signage, and a 70-inch television display.
Walker Mowers, a firm believer in supporting its dealer network through stellar frontline marketing services and generous marketing co-op programs, has helped more than 30 dealers transform their showrooms in just two years' time, turning space into one of its most powerful sales tools, as evidenced by these 16 pages of case study success.
"We've concentrated on making dealers look like they're in the Walker Mowers business," says Tim Cromley, marketing manager for the company. "The crux of it all began when we realized our website dealer locator was sending tens of thousands of leads to dealer locations every year - people prepared to buy a commercial riding mower. And yet, we were sending them to locations that didn't look like a Walker dealership. We weren't delivering buyer confidence."
And so, began Walker Mowers' Showroom Enhancement Program:
First, the manufacturer changed its co-op structure, introducing a three-way, co-op split between the dealer, distributor, and Walker to triple every dollar the dealer spent on showroom updating. A hypothetical $917 dealer investment could become a $2,750 dealer showroom, and to show their partners how those dollars could be spent, Walker created a robust Showroom Getting Started Menu Booklet.
A simple $1,000 investment could deliver branded flooring, a television display, a brochure rack, a logo table, a set of stools and custom wall and window graphics. On average, Cromley has seen dealers spend an average of $1,500, which delivers a $4,500 impact.
"Co-op programs, like Walkers', absolutely create more dealer loyalty," Morgano says. "I've had folks come in and ask, "Why don't you sell RedMax or this or that?" I point to my showroom and explain the manufacturer put my display in. They paid for it. Installed it. That's thousands of dollars I would have to sell."
Before: Power Equipment Plus II
After: Power Equipment Plus II
Walker Mowers takes its program a step further, measuring and mocking up showrooms for dealers with actual photos. "So many times, we've heard dealers say, "How are you going to get three mowers in there?" Cromley says. "When we mock it up, they suddenly say, "Wow, that's cool. I can see that happening now."
A little showroom design can go a long way.
But unlike other manufacturers, Walker Mowers prides itself on not dominating their dealers' showroom. "We consider ourselves a guest in their living room," Cromley explains. "We've listened to a lot of dealers lament about how some manufacturers control the whole process and just take over their showroom. We don't. We want the showroom to resonate with their team, and we always try to incorporate our branding with theirs."
Morgano tips his hat to this approach. "They're very comfortable people to work with."
And while all of this is warm and fuzzy, there's still the bottom line to think about.
Cromley points to each case study when he's asked about ROI. And there's one success story, in particular, that's as green as a Walker-mowed lawn.
In 2015, Harry's Equipment Center purchased a neighboring carpet store with the intent to create a much-improved 9,000-sq. ft. showroom. A Walker dealer since 2005, the Martinez, Ga., dealership only saw three to four Walker sales a year. After a little co-op wagering, Walker is now (out front mowing) for the Harry's with a welcoming 30" x 50" display. And for the first time ever, Harry's is carrying a full line of Walker Mowers, and the dealer can point to 28 Walker Mower sales in 2016 and 21 in 2017.
"I hate the line, "You have to spend money to make money"," Cromley admits. "But you have to look like you're in business, and we weren't doing that. We even had a dealer tell one of our distributors that he'd been doing business with Walker for 20 years, and he said, "This is the first time you've ever brought anything like this to me. Shame on you." And he was right. Shame on us. Dealer success should always start with the manufacturer, and we're proud of what we're now doing for our dealers."